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Pilots asked to report sick passengers to prevent diseases from spreading

Move aims to give sick passengers medical help on time, prevent disease from spreading

mumbai Updated: Aug 05, 2017 10:26 IST
Neha LM Tripathi
Neha LM Tripathi
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Air Traffic Control,Director General of Civil Aviation
In India, air traffic grows at annual rate of 16%-18%.(HT FILE)

As a preventive measure against swine flu and other communicable diseases, pilots operating commercial flights have been asked to report sick passengers to the Air Traffic Control (ATC).

A circular issued by the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) asked airlines to inform the ATC about passengers who appear to be sick or are suffering from communicable diseases so that they get medical help as soon as they land at an airport and public health risk is minimised. All scheduled/non-scheduled and private airline operators have been asked to include the provision in their operations manual by December 31.

In India, air traffic grows at annual rate of 16%-18%. With Indian airlines beginning to fly to more international locations, the risk of them bringing in communicable diseases increases. There have been an increase in number of H1N1 (swine flu) and other communicable diseases in the country.

The circular issued on Wednesday said after the detection of passengers suspected to be suffering from communicable diseases — show symptoms like appearing unwell, continuous coughing, impaired breathing, prolong diarrhoea, persistent vomiting, skin rash or bleeding without previous history — the details need to be sent to the ATC. This data should include the aircraft type, departure aerodrome, destination aerodrome, estimated time of arrival, number of people on board, number of suspected case or cases on board and nature of public health risk (if known).

Some senior pilots are sceptical about the circular’s effectiveness in preventing the spread of communicable diseases. Former Indian Air Force pilot and aviation expert Vipul Saxena said it was a good health initiative by the regulator, but the step sounds more reactive than proactive. “As India is one the countries that handles highest passenger traffic there is a need to consider making H1N1 vaccine essential for all passengers as preventive measure for any epidemic outburst like yellow fever vaccine is necessary to travel to African countries,” said Saxena. “However, identification of such patients should be done at check in/security points and the staff should be trained accordingly. Passengers should also be made to sign a declaration that they don’t have any such infection. If any passenger is found with communicable diseases, the airline should be given the right to deboard them.”

The aviation regulator has also asked the operators to follow health related legal requirements of countries as mentioned in the Aeronautical Information Publication, which has guidelines for the crew to and from the aircraft for the airport.

Air India said it had not received the circular yet. “We will take appropriate steps once we receive it,” said Dhananjay Kumar, Air India spokesperson. However, attempts to reach the DGCA failed when they did not answer HT’s calls.

First Published: Aug 05, 2017 10:25 IST